General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes? Rss Feed  
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2013-08-24 9:04 AM

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Los Gatos
Subject: Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes?
I was reading the article below and was struck by this comment:

"Studies into Ian Thorpeā€™s leg kick showed that even he could only generate about 10-15% propulsion from it (with super flexible size 17 feet!), the vast majority of his propulsion was from his upper body. Pool sprint swimmers may wish to develop a strong leg kick but for the majority of people doing triathlon or long distance and open water swimming, you should be looking to minimise your energy expenditure from your leg kick. You are just using it to keep your legs high to reduce drag"

What do you all feel about this?

Personally, I have a weak kick - I get very little propulsion from my legs. My swim coach has me doing loads of drills to give me a stronger kick but if the comment above is true, I'm wasting my time. A better strategy is to conserve my energy and use my legs simply to keep my hips high in the water.


Edited by smallard 2013-08-24 9:08 AM

2013-08-24 9:23 AM
in reply to: smallard

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Extreme Veteran
, Kobenhavns Kommune
Subject: RE: Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes?
The kick is important to keep your body position, lacking that, legs drop causing lots of drag. So while effective propulsion may be low, the drag caused by dropping legs is huge (try swimming with a band).

Kick drills are not only meant to strengthen the kick, it may actually be secondary. Rather it's about getting your legs up and get that body position right. I recall being taught to kick with straight legs and have my feet splash the water - why? well, if legs are straight and the feet splashes the water my body position must be high, straight and streamlined.

In the context of triathlon I agree that it's wasted energy to get propulsion from the kick, but that should not be used as an excuse to not do kick sets. You need to strengthen your kick and do kick sets to get your body position right and reduce drag.
2013-08-24 10:36 AM
in reply to: erik.norgaard

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Overland Park, KS
Subject: RE: Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes?
I was thinking if I had a stronger kick, I'd do better at the occasional sprint distance race. Also, the better swimmer you are, the better triathlete you will be, period! But in terms of time spent training, I can understand spending less time doing kick sets than other things. I found that doing things like one arm drills also helped with body position and I end up working the kick just to keep good body position.
2013-08-24 10:51 AM
in reply to: smallard

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Kenmore, Washington
Subject: RE: Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes?
Don't assume a strong kicker uses more energy (with their legs) than a weak kicker. A "strong" kick is an "efficient" kick.
2013-08-24 4:15 PM
in reply to: smallard

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Subject: RE: Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes?
It really depends on how strong a swimmer you want to be. If you're fine with the MOP, don't bother with a kick, you're right. If you're not competing for a podium spot, that's absolutely acceptable for most age groups (cue LeftBrain to tell us about how that won't fly in the 25 and under set, 3...2...1...) You said you have a swim coach, which means you want to be a better swimmer...they are 100% correct to develop your kick. You're there to swim faster. aren't you?

But you're high if you think kicking doesn't matter. Do you expend energy kicking? Yes, of course. And if you work on it, it gets easier. Same thing with running and cycling, this is called training. Simple question, if you can develop your body to provide you with more propulsion in the water, why wouldn't you? If you're out for a nice, calm swim followed by an intense ride and run, you can't say you're racing, you're playing catch up. If you have the ability to be in the mix on the bike and the run and you don't want to learn to swim in the front of the pack, duathlon might be a better choice. Swimming fast involves a propulsive kick that integrates the timing that drives the core and upper body.

I say all this as someone who was, for a while, content to swim MOP, and said "no more!" when I started to get competitive on the other two legs. I enlisted the help of a professional to finally integrate a kick and the results are dramatic. HOWEVER, I've come to appreciate this 'sport' is very divided into two distinct and equally important groups - those that race and those that finish. There is NOTHING ignoble about doing a triathlon with no intention of competing for a spot on the podium. Complete opposite, it's wonderful, I applaud (literally, I stand at the finish line until the final participant clapping) every one who does this. They make up the most significant portion of race entrants outside of championship events. They are, by that alone, more important to the sport than those at the pointy end of the stick. The pack can improve on the run and the bike with much more significant time results over a shorter period of time that they will get off improving on the swim, but at some some point...the swim is a major piece of the puzzle, and deserves its due respect.
2013-08-24 4:41 PM
in reply to: erik.norgaard

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Great White North
Subject: RE: Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes?
Stronger kickers tend to have more flexible ankles too. High body position/leg is the ticket.

2013-08-24 7:48 PM
in reply to: simpsonbo

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Subject: RE: Strong Swim Kick a Bad Idea for Triathletes?
I can't kick, other than to keep a streamline position (no propulsion). I am a MOP guy, and with a wetsuit on, my legs seem like they are just along for the ride. I am always amazed by the fast kickers in the pool, who with their kickboards seem to be able to go almost as fast as this old guy who is just swimming freestyle.
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